VCU Hosts New Cohort of Global Scholars Examining Drug and Alcohol Prevention

VCU Hosts New Cohort of Global Scholars Examining Drug and Alcohol Prevention

Virginia Commonwealth University’s Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies has welcomed seven international scholars chosen to participate in the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program.

Last month, the distinguished cohort of international scholars began their yearlong leadership training that combines academic, practical and cultural activities. These scholars will be contributing to research in drug and alcohol prevention, treatment and policy and public health at VCU and in the community during their time in the United States.

The fellowship program, a Fulbright exchange activity, is administered by the Institute of International Education. The program brings established health professionals from developing countries to VCU for two semesters of study and related professional experiences. This year’s cohort includes seven mid-career professionals from Togo, Israel, Tinidad and Tobago, Nigeria, Myanmar and Brazil.

Participants are selected through a rigorous process that is determined by U.S. embassies and the Fulbright commission. The program builds ties with international professionals and stimulates global research opportunities. The VCU Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies serves as the administrative home for the program.

VCU has hosted international fellows since 2006 when the university was first designated a Humphrey Campus for Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Policy.

The seven fellows for 2012-2013 are:

  • Dr. Sossinou Awoussi is an ophthalmologist from Togo in West Africa, where blindness is a major issue - with prevalence more than 1 percent. Cataract, refractive errors and glaucoma are the main causes. During his fellowship at VCU, he expects to improve his skills in policy and management in public health, and especially in eye health issues. He is also looking to develop and strengthen partnerships with American sight organizations. The new skills and relationships will help him to more efficiently manage the eye health program in his country.
  • Ms. Suzan Ben Ezra, from Mazkeret Batya, Israel, earned her Bachelor of Social Work from Tel Hai Academic College and her Master in Social Work from Haifa University specializing in the field of corrections. For the past four years, she has worked as the Supervisor of the Southern Region for the Israel Anti-Drug Authority’s (IADA) Community Development Division, instructing local coordinators regarding the development and implementation of drug and alcohol prevention and treatment programs, and assisting in the adaptation of national policies to meet local municipality needs. Through her fellowship, Ben Ezra plans to focus on a number of issues including special populations such as women, youth and families, community-based alcohol prevention programs, new treatment and rehabilitation methods, the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes and the development of coherent drug and alcohol-related policies.
  • Ms. Jezelle Charles, from Arima, Trinidad and Tobago, has worked as a forensic toxicologist at the Trinidad and Tobago Forensic Science Centre for the past 10 years. She analyzes clinical and postmortem biological samples and exhibits for the presence of illicit and pharmaceutical drugs and poisons. Charles is also responsible for the submission of data to the National Drug Council of Trinidad and Tobago and the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, with respect to drug-related deaths. During her fellowship, Charles plans to enhance her knowledge of drug abuse, drug pharmacology and qualitative and quantitative analytical methods so that she can improve procedures in her toxicology laboratory and additionally assist in the creation of a national clinical toxicology laboratory. She also plans to develop greater knowledge about substance abuse prevention and treatment, thus enabling her to contribute to the National Drug Plan of Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Dr. Bola Ola, from Osogbo, Nigeria, is a senior lecturer in the Department of Behavioural Medicine, Lagos State University, and the head of the Substance Abuse Unit in its affiliated teaching hospital. Ola’s primary interest is in consultation-liaison psychiatry with a focus on adolescent and women’s mental health. He has 40 peer-reviewed publications in local and international journals. During his fellowship year, he seeks to enhance his knowledge and skills related to drafting and promoting drug abuse policies and programs, especially as they relate to primary health care. He also hopes to become more familiar with NIH funding opportunities in order to support his work in Nigeria. In 2012, Ola received his advanced certificate in REBT from the Albert Ellis Institute. In 2011, he received fellowship awards from the Japanese Society of Psychiatry and Neurology and NIDA-ISAM.
  • Twenty years ago, when Ms. Rosie Myint, from Northern Shan State, Myanmar, was working as a senior teacher with ethnic minority groups in remote rural areas of her country, she began serving as a volunteer youth educator in a drug prevention program sponsored by the Myanmar Anti-Narcotics Association (MANA). She is now a project officer and counselor for MANA and is responsible not only for counseling intravenous drug users, but also for planning, monitoring and evaluating harm reduction activities in various project areas. She has a strong interest in qualitative and quantitative research on the prevention of drug abuse among those with behavioral issues, economic challenges and limited education. During her fellowship year at VCU, Myint plans to improve her monitoring and evaluation skills as they relate to early drug prevention, relapse prevention and behavioral change communication programs. She also will focus her studies on community involvement and enhancement in drug demand reduction to create and foster a drug-free environment in the areas in which she works.
  • Since 2000, Mr. Kouame Sedaminou, from Lomé, Togo, has taught history, geography, moral education and civic duty classes to secondary school students at the Kodjoviakope Secondary School of Lomé, where he has also served as the Deputy Headmaster since 2005. He received training on drug abuse prevention and education through a UNODC-funded program designed to reduce drug demand in West Africa. Since 2006, he has worked with the National Anti-Drug Committee of Togo and many other associations to educate youth at risk for substance abuse and promote good decision-making and safe choices. He has also trained peer leaders to advocate for positive change within their schools. He believes that education is power and educated youth create a healthy society. During his Humphrey fellowship at VCU, he seeks to enhance his knowledge of drug abuse prevention programs for youth. His long-term goal is to intensify efforts to prevent alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse in schools and to train other teachers as substance abuse advisors.
  • Claudemir Dos Santos from Santos, SP, Brazil, has served as a police officer for nine years in the Sao Paulo State Military Police and works as an instructor in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program. This education-based prevention program is implemented in primary and secondary schools and seeks to assist children and adolescents in making wise decisions about avoiding drugs and violence. Dos Santos also serves as part of a team that is charged with mentoring and expanding the D.A.R.E program throughout Brazil. During his fellowship year at VCU, Dos Santos seeks to learn more about evidence-based practices in drug abuse prevention and to become familiar with research related to the causes of drug abuse. He would like to develop culturally-appropriate prevention measures primarily directed at children and adolescents. Additionally, he would like to improve his skills in the evaluation of prevention programs. He is excited to participate in professional affiliations in these areas in order to improve his knowledge and abilities.

For more information on the VCU Humphrey Fellowship program, visit

The VCU Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies was established at VCU in 1993 to promote excellence in research and education on substance abuse. The institute is composed of more than 50 faculty members from 14 different departments within the university, enabling a multidisciplinary approach to addressing the complex problems associated with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

VCU welcomes the 2012-2013 cohort of Humphrey Fellows. From left to right - Jezelle Charles (Trinidad and Tobago), Kouame Sedaminou (Togo), Rosie Myint (Myanmar), Claudemir dos Santos (Brazil), Dr. Sossinou Awoussi (Togo), Dr. Bolanle Ola (Nigeria), Suzan Ben-Ezra (Israel).
VCU welcomes the 2012-2013 cohort of Humphrey Fellows. From left to right - Jezelle Charles (Trinidad and Tobago), Kouame Sedaminou (Togo), Rosie Myint (Myanmar), Claudemir dos Santos (Brazil), Dr. Sossinou Awoussi (Togo), Dr. Bolanle Ola (Nigeria), Suzan Ben-Ezra (Israel).